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Abbot

Abbot, a term derived from Abba (Heb. father), and originally applied to any ecclesiastic, more especially if old, but later used to signify only the president of a monastery. Later still, it was further restricted to mean the president of an abbey as distinct from the president of a priory, but eventually this latter limitation was disregarded. Abbots were most generally chosen by the monks over whom they had to preside, but, in the case of the abbots who sat in the House of Lords, the assent of the Crown was also necessary for election. Up to the sixth century all abbots were not necessarily priests, but after that date most of them held clerical orders, and in 787 they were allowed to give minor orders to their subjects! At first they were under the jurisdiction of the bishops, but in the eleventh century some of their number succeeded in throwing off the yoke, and they henceforth owned no authority save the Pope; abbots of this class were known as exempted or insulated abbots. Permission to wear mitres was frequently given to abbots, sometimes without exemption from episcopal authority, and before the Reformation twenty-seven mitred abbots and two priors sat in the House of Lords. They ceased to be peers, however, after the suppression of the monasteries.

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